The Silence of the Fathers

“Son, you are becoming a man. You will feel lust you will have to manage. If you choose to drink you may give up control and then you are nothing but a wild beast of the human jungle. A wild beast of the jungle brings shame and dishonor to your family, to our ancestors, and to other men.”

I wish I knew who said those words, or even if they have ever been said. I certainly don’t hear them being said now. I don’t hear them being said by fathers on Social Media, by the coaches on sports’ teams.  In fact the coaches seem to have been indulging in their own lust.  Today’s music, TV, films?   We live in a culture, East and West, where wanton male sexuality is admired.  Any threat to that male sexual behavior is perceived as emasculating.  It’s as though we are afraid to really lessen the power of the wild beast.  To me, this is an insult to all men, because not all men are wild beasts.  But it does seem they are rather quiet.

Like most women around the world I have my share of stories, molestation, rape (for me a knife held at my throat), college professors who lined up the girls he wanted to bed, wandering surgeons’ hands in the operating room, sexually inappropriate and demeaning remarks in the high echelons of the corporate world…

A volcano of smoldering fire has burst forth with molten lava, which by nature consumes all in proximity.  The wild beasts and gentle men become indistinguishable,  part of the problem being we don’t always see the wild beast hidden inside the gentle man.  And the gentle men seem reluctant to speak up, and organize themselves into a movement that redefines a maleness that excludes rape.  Yes there have been small groups but they never seem to grow.  Where are the Corporate Board members and the CEO’s taking leadership in wiping out sexual discrimination and harassment?  Name a University head who has pledged the same.   Is the problem that the “big fish” are the beasts?  Will strong men in leadership give up the perks of freedom to harass?  I am hoping for these leaders to pledge to raise their sons differently, and to wipe out these offenses in their companies, universities, hospitals, law firms, etc.  So far they seem unwilling.

Since the explosions have been placed in the US congress as the place of battle, I propose  a Truth and Reconciliation Commission be set up, with it’s first charge to address the secret fund of taxpayer money that has been used to settle the cases of sexual misconduct against members of congress.   Let that be public, and as in South Africa, a forum for denouncing the past and pledging to a future that is different,  What we have now is sheer hypocrisy in the Congress.

When I wrote and published, The Preteen’s First Book About Love, Sex, and AIDS, (American Psychiatric Press Inc. 1995) I wrote: “The crossing of sexual boundaries between people, whether in word or touch seems to cause deeper wounds and greater shame than any other kinds of abuse.  The person who commits the crime of sexual abuse seems to pass on the shame and humiliation to the victim.” p.76

Women are angry and hurting, triggered by one woman’s story and one man’s position, both being managed in highly politicized ways.  None of this happens on its own.  Bill Cosby has gone to jail at 81 while Harvey Weinstein and Bill Clinton walk free.  Juanita Broaddrick is silenced as are the women claiming abuse by Keith Ellison.  The conflict is bigger than black and white or right or left., socialist or capitalist.  It is at the core of every culture known to our species — what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman.

The shame eats at us.  I am 75 but I still have places of shame which are untouched by my accomplishments in life.  How do you wash away the feeling of being soiled when a man has forced himself into your body?  How much soap?  How many years?

The wild beasts, be they doctors, professors, corporate executives — they had and have no shame.  They are often treated as though the offenses are so old they are outweighed by these men’s accomplishments and good deeds.  We women carry the shame for them and that burden has become too great to carry in silence.  There seems to be no expiration date on shame, so why should there be one for the offence?

 

Gandhi on “The Jews”

A new blog… started a while ago, but never published, as I thought about what I was trying to do.  I have a blog about my life as mother to thirteen girls at Shishur Sevay (www.shishursevay.com)  but other currents and journeys happen simultaneously and increasingly I want to share those thoughts, those parts of my life.

Today is the first of these posts because I cannot get these words of Mahatma Gandhi out of my mind. Writing in 1938, on “The Jews”, he says:

“The calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the god fearing, death has no terror. It is a joyful sleep to be followed by a waking that would be all the more refreshing for the long sleep.”

Reference:  http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/JewsGandhi.html

 

I’ve admired Gandhi all my life.  My father told stories about him.  in India we celebrate him.  I once wrote a piece about Shishur Sevay entitled, ‘Let all our children bloom as Gandhi did.”  He was a poor and sickly student and his family did not have high expectations.

Getting rid of us seems to be a common theme in history.   Jews are a bit like weeds.  You put us anywhere and we tend to thrive, and certainly no one yet has found a successful Final Solution.  And I think after the Holocaust, you simply can’t count on our passivity.

I have a personal story to tell.  When I was 18 years old I was raped at knife-point.  I accepted what was happening and didn’t “fight or scream” because I was more frightened of being killed than of being raped.  I believe that I survived because of my submission.   Ten years later, I was visiting a commune, staying overnight in my van, when the commune was invaded by drunken men, presumed to be local police.  Other women were quietly secreted into my van with me.  I had no weapons but a small pen knife.  I held it out, knowing that no one would ever rape me again without a fight.  I fully expected to die that night.  The drunken men discovered us and my dog started barking wildly.  They rocked the van.  The road had been blocked by their cars but there was a lone farmhouse across a large field.  I started the van and plunged ahead over the field, horn blowing..  The elderly couple came running down and let us in.  A bit later the men of the commune arrived and gave me a scolding for running, for disturbing what they believed could have been settled with guitar playing and singing. You see, the second time is worse, because you know the pain of being invaded, of losing the battle, and what passivity does to you, even if it’s the “rational thing to do.”   After that, you never want to feel that weakness and self-condemnation again, so you fight.  For Israel, the Holocaust symbolizes helplessness and passivity. Now, It’s other people’s turn to be morally superior and stop trying to exterminate us.

No, I didn’t expect to write all this today…..  I guess there will be more over time.